Karma Dino Kit Car Rebuild
I have wanted to build a kit for ages - almost since I became interested in cars. Previous projects including a Honda CB-125 rebuild and maintaining an Alpine GTA and a Fiat X1/9 have helped me to build my mechanical knowledge to the standard where I am confident that I can do a full build. Money, as always, is limited so I have been looking for a relatively cheap kit.
A Lotus 7 replica or dune buggy seemed most likely, but I have found a pre-built 1984 Karma Dino (Ferrari 246 replica) on eBay. The car is 28 years old and has been road legal fairly recently (2 MOT's to prove this). It needs a complete rebuild though so is as much work (maybe more - because of dismantling, cleaning and repairs) as a new kit. There is no engine either - that has been sold separately .
A while back I bought a 1999 Mk2 Mondeo with approx' 208,000 miles on the clock, 50/50 with a friend . The engine was removed and checked by an engineer. It was in good condition and worth keeping, so was completely dismantled .
The engine was rebuilt and installed back into the car (for testing) . It was a surprisingly simple job and we pretty much just followed the Haynes book with great success. There were a few minor difficulties - things that should have come undone easily but didn't, that kind of thing - but otherwise all went well. It started first time and is running pretty well. Money was exchanged and the engine is wholly mine now.
The Dino is not on the original VW Beetle chassis. It's Ford based and front engined - ideal for the Mondeo Zetec. I have a lot of work to do - "Project Chameleon" starts on the 15th Sept when I collect the car from Southampton.
Why "Chameleon" ? Well, the car is a Karma Dino and I've had Karma Chameleon by Culture Club stuck in my head since seeing the car. Anyway, it was either that or "Project DINOsaur" on the basis that it'll take 65,000,000 years to rebuild and should be back on the road in time for the next ice age!
The Mondeo is almost completely stripped. Just a few more bits and then it's ready for scrapping.
The Mondeo (well, what was left of it) went to the breakers, and then the Dino was collected from Southampton.
I started stripping the Dino interior today. Unfortunately I was a little short on time but managed a few hours work. The carpets and soundproofing are out now. They were soaked - quite a lot of water has found its way into the car - something to remember when it gets re-trimmed (make sure it is not letting water in first!) .
I stripped most of the electrics from the engine bay yesterday. The front lights were removed along with a few other bits (including the extremely rusty windscreen wiper mechanism). I removed the rear lights, petrol tank (found the underside is rusty so a new tank is required) and stripped the wiring from the boot. I have also found why the inside of the car is so wet - the air intake scoops on the sides behind the doors (that I think would have had ducts into the engine bay for cooling a rear mounted VW engine) are open to the inside of the car. When the car was reconfigured to be front engined it looks like these weren't blocked off - slightly strange as it seems such an obvious thing to do. It doesn't matter too much because I will be fully re-trimming the car, but the bolts holding the body tub onto the chassis are rusty so may be challenging to remove. The damp environment has left the upper seatbelt mountings very rusty as well. To be fair, they would not be up to modern standards regardless so it doesn't make much different. They would have to be replaced anyway. since 1984 kit car design does not really match 2012 standards. I need to consider options and work out the best way to provide safe seatbelt mountings .
A good days work today! The rear bumpers were removed and the large rusty metal plate that covered the cutout that (I guess) used to be for a petrol tank removed. Everything was rusty so bolts had to be cut or ground away. The front and rear screens were removed - quickly followed by the dashboard and rest of the wiring.
Just a few short hours today - the steering column and the drivers door were removed. All the bolts were rusty so they needed to be cut/ground away - it looks like the much of the stripdown will be like this, at least until the body tub is off. The chassis and suspension don't seem to be too rusty but all that water that was inside means that I need a trip to Screwfix for some more cutting and grinding discs!
The passenger door, heater, handbrake lever and accelerator pedal were removed today. That's the inside of the car totally stripped out now, and those rusty bolts holding the body on the chassis have been covered in penetrating fluid in the hope that removing them won't be a total nightmare. Weather permitting (it's getting cold and rainy out there these days) the body will be separated from the chassis next weekend - maybe for the first time in 28 years .
Serious garage clearout and tidy up today - it was getting a little cluttered out there to say the least. I can move around and get to tools now - and there are a few less trip hazards. It took ages but was well worth it. Most of the bolts holding the body to the chassis were removed. There are a few left that need cutting off but most of them came undone much more easily than I expected .
I cut off the rest of the bolts and was somewhat surprised not to be able to move the body tub. It turns out that it's been bonded to the chassis as well. There is a lot of very tough adhesive on there. I spent hours trying to cut through it with a very thin knife but not making much progress. I've ordered a cutting wire kit (normally used for cutting through urethane car window sealant). That stuff is so tough that it'll take days to cut through it all with a knife (especially as access is tight and it's difficult to get the knife between the chassis and the body) - hopefully the cutting wire will be the right tool for the job. On the plus side, what I can see of the chassis, now that the car is on axle stands, looks promising. Some surface rust but otherwise pretty good. Hopefully all that bonding adhesive will mean that the top of the chassis has been kept dry and rust free .
I spent most of today working with the knife and the new cutting wire - trying to separate the body from the chassis. I think (hope!) I am most of the way there now. The front of the body moves quite easily but the back is still stuck fast.
Finally ! After somewhere around 24 hours effort over three weeks, the body is off! Hopefully this will prove to have been the hardest job on the car. I suspect I have a few challenges ahead of me yet though!
I've built a frame around the car for lifting the body and keeping it raised. The body is now sitting on the frame and the chassis cleanup has started. This'll take a while I think - especially since there is all that nasty bonding compound to remove. The good news is that the chassis looks to be very good. It looks nasty and dirty - but that's just cosmetic. The important bit is that there is a little bit of surface rust but nothing more serious. The seat mountings are pretty poor though - they have not been welded on very well (and look to have been added to the chassis sometime after the original build). They need re-making .
I stripped the rear brakes and started stripping the axle. One of the drive shafts came out very easily, but the other seems stuck fast.
I am trying to identify the parts at the moment. Although the car was thought to have a 2.0l Ford Cortina axle, it may not have. The 2.0l should have an "Atlas" differential and, I think, my car has the "Koln" (Cologne) diff' from the 1.3l/1.6/ Cortina. I've spent ages looking at photo's on websites because the difference is externally visually minor, and is as simple as different bolt spacings. Internally they are different so, if I need any rebuild work done, identification is quite critical. There is a slight bit of slack between the input pinion gear and the crown wheel (the large gear attached to the differential cage). This might be normal as some 'backlash' is OK, but I need an experts opinion.
Today was a minor milestone. I started refurbishing the first part to be used on the rebuilt car - one of the rear drum brake backing plates. This marks the change from simply pulling the car apart and throwing bits away, to actually starting the rebuild. I have a mechanic coming to inspect the chassis and suspension tomorrow. I need to know that the basics of the car are strong and safe. The ramifications of building a car on unsafe chassis and suspension components don't bear thinking about!
The mechanic checked the chassis/suspension and axle/differential today. All good - no problems. I've also started removing the bushes from the trailing and radius suspension arms. The rubbers have been burnt out and one outer shell cut out. The rest should be quite simple now I know what I am doing .
This afternoon was spent removing the other rubber bush outer shells and then cleaning the suspension radius arms. A flapper disc on the angle grinder made quick work of it, with various wire brush drill attachments getting into the smaller, tighter, areas. The parts are now coated with phosphoric acid based rust remover .
More cleaning today - I have started on the trailing arms.
I finished cleaning up the trailing arms today. They are presently being treated with the phosphoric acid rust remover. Whoever last fitted bushes to this car didn't do a particularly good job. The bushes where the trailing arms meet the axle are misaligned so no grease has got to where it should do. There is a hole through the plastic part of the bush that should line up with the grease nipple. It doesn't - so the inside of the bush is bone dry and almost seized up. All the bushes are getting replaced so it doesn't matter all that much in this case, but I don't think that they'd have lasted long and they would then upset the cars handling .
I started cleaning up the chassis today. With the muck, rust and bonding removed I've been able to see all the welds - which mostly look good. There are one or two joints that would benefit from re-welding, and there are the seat mountings to replace, but all-in-all it's not too bad at all.
More cleaning - and part of the chassis has been taken down to bare metal and treated with phosphoric acid. There are a few small holes where screws have been that can be filled with a little weld - otherwise still no nasty surprises.
I can clean and paint most of the chassis but I need to be able to move it around (I don't have enough room to leave it in one place) so I can't take the steering and front suspension off until the rear axle and wheels are back on. This means I have to leave the front of the chassis as-is for a short while .
Best part of half way through stripping underseal and primer from the chassis. I cut off the old seat mountings today, as well.
I've completed stripping most of the chassis down to bare metal, well pretty much. A final cleanup tomorrow to get rid of the few last bits of old underseal and primer, and then I can apply the cold galvanising coating. That will just leave the bit of the chassis that would be in the engine bay to do, once I bolt the back axle and suspension into place and remove the front suspension and steering rack.
There was a small section previously cut out from one of the cross members. This was for routing the brake and fuel pipes, along with the battery cable. It had left the inside of the cross member exposed so I welded in a piece of 25mm box section. It doesn't look too bad considering there was a lot of gaps around it that needed filling with weld .
Last cleanup of the chassis and the cold galvanizing coating has been applied. The front section will be done after the rear of the car has been re-assembled and the front suspension removed .
It looks like the worst of the winter is over, and it was a very nice day today. Thanks to a local garage, it's been established that the differential/axle are from a 1971 Mk III Cortina. The '71' in the diff' casing number 71BG 4198-AC is the give-away. That is important to know as I can now order the new (poly) bushes.
I've had the bearings on the rear drive shafts (half shafts) replaced. Bearings sourced from Burtons, part number FBK023.
The axle/diff housing has been rubbed down and is getting the phosphoric acid treatment.
The axle/diff housing is now cold galvanised and ready for a top coat of POR-15 Hardnose super hard paint. I've bought the poly bushes for the trailing and radius arms, and new nuts/bolts/washers ready for refitting. It'll be a major milestone having the back end of the car back together. Then I get to start on the front......
The poly bushes are SuperPro bushes - parts SPF0847K, SPF1087K, SPF0219-80K. I also bought part SPF0695-70K which is the lower arm (trailing arm) rear bush - where the arm meets the axle housing. However, now that I have the bush and can compare it with the arm it's obvious that the arm has been modified and the bush is not needed.
The brake shoe fitting kit (part# SFK127) has been ordered from Burton - www.burtonpower.com
Rear brake drums (part# BDR6149) sourced from Brakes International (Rochdale) - BrakeParts.co.uk - thanks to them for seriously excellent customer service. What I thought were the correct shoes and wheel cylinders have turned out not to be, so a slight delay whilst the new parts are returned and the old ones are sent to Brakes International for identification.
I ordered, and have had delivered, the new seats. They are nice! Brakes International have sorted out the correct rear brake shoes (part BSS7152) and wheel cylinders (BWC5080) for me as well .
The axle housing and trailing/radius arms have been painted with the lovely thick gooey POR-15 hardnose paint - a two part paint that needs a hardener mixed in prior to use, and is incredibly hard once fully cured (after 4 days or so). I have started painting the chassis with yellow POR-15 but have run out of paint and am awaiting a delivery of more. The rear shocks have been disassembled ready for painting.
It was too cold for painting this weekend but that gave me the chance to clean up the springs and dampers, powder coat the axle oil plug (looks OK, could be better though) and a few other minor prep' jobs .
Big day today - the back end of the car is back together with all new wheel bearings and bushes. All bolts are just loosely done up at the moment - they can't be torqued tight until the car is standing on the ground and the car is at its normal weight else bushes will be under strain "at rest" which can lead to premature failure .
I took the front of the chassis down to bare metal and acid-treated it today. I completed the strip down of the suspension - there were several stuck parts that have been soaked in penetrating oil all week. One bolt was so stuck inside a bush that it took a hammer, my slide hammer and heat to remove it. It looks like it was put together without any copper grease, and a lot of the front end was close to being seized up.
I have also found that a couple of the ball joints are very stiff, and all the rubbers are perished.
The front of the chassis was coated with the cold galvanising paint, after filling quite a few old screw holes with weld and grinding them down. I also cleaned up the front cross-member and started the acid treatment on it. It's a complicated shape and will take a few attempts to properly and completely treat, cold galvanise and paint. Getting the inside of it coated means blocking holes, filling it with the various liquids and moving it around to make sure the acid/galvanising/paint gets everywhere .
I am still refurbishing parts, although I'm most of the way there now, and have powder coated some of the smaller bits ready for rebuilding the front end. The hubs are with the local garage having the bearings replaced. The bearings were not too bad at all, but I am doing so much else to the car that it seemed daft not to change them as a matter of course.
I have had to replace the front upper suspension arms - when I was taking it all apart I noticed that the brake discs could touch the old upper arms when the steering was turned. A quick bit of research highlighted that they were not the original Cortina parts but I found some correct, refurbished, ones for not too much money so that ended up hopefully being a only minor problem. My only doubt with what I have done is that the original parts don't allow the camber of the front wheels to be adjusted. If that proves to be a problem when the wheels are aligned at a later date then I will have to try something different, but having the possibility of the brakes touching the suspension arms when the car is steered means that there is no way I can leave the other arms on the car, regardless.
I painted the front cross member today - two nice thick coats of black POR-15 - and the suspension arms have had a coat of the cold galvanising paint. I also started on the rear sway bar. I have been waiting for the sway bar bushes for ages, which is why I didn't do this earlier. I still don't have all the bushes, but I do have enough to make it worthwhile starting to reburbish it .
The rear sway bar refurbishment is complete and it's ready to bolt back onto the car. The front end is now back together, with all the bolts being uprated to 10.9 high tensile (previously they were 8.8's). The steering rack is presently being refurb'd, and the body has been lowered onto the rolling chassis.
Today was quite a milestone - I hoisted the engine into the engine bay so that I could see how it fits and what I will need to do to make the engine mountings. Unsurprisingly it's going to take quite a lot of work. The engine will need to sit behind the cross member because of it's height. That takes it quite close to the bulkhead so it looks like that will need some modification and reshaping. Sitting the engine that far back means that I can't use the engine mountings on the cross member so I will need to do some clever fabrication. I will need to test fit the gear box as well - and then I can work out mountings for that too.
This is probably one of the biggest jobs of the build - and it's critical to get it right! The engine can't be too high otherwise it'll obstruct my view when driving and, regardless, has to be the correct height for the gearbox to fit. The gearbox needs to line up with the differential, and I need to ensure a clear path for the steering linkage.
I can definitely understand why the scuttle had to be cut to take the Cosworth engine - and it's done me a bit of a favour actually. I have a few options though, such as modifying or changing the sump, maybe even going for a dry sump setup. I can also relocate a few parts such as the coil pack and some of the pipework. I have a challenging few weeks ahead!
One minor annoyance is that I have found that the cam cover gasket lets oil leak into the spark plug wells. We had a lot of trouble fitting it, and obviously didn't get it quite right. If that is the only problem after the total rebuild of the engine then I won't be too disappointed though.
I test fitted the gearbox today. It doesn't quite fit so a little modification of the centre tunnel will be required. That's a simple enough job as it's a fibreglass body. The gearbox will need lifting a little to join with the engine so the top of the centre tunnel is too low. There is quite a lot of filler around the tunnel so it's been modified before anyway for, I assume, a previous gearbox fitment.
I also made a template for a plate to sit between the chassis and the front cross-member. Once in place I will be able to fix the engine mounts to this - that's the plan anyway. There is a certain amount of trial and error, testing and fettling involved in this. Hopefully it'll work though!
The template has been completed and a pair of thin steel panels have been made, and loosely fitted to the car. If this idea proves to be a success then I will get the final versions made up professionally from thick steel as I don't have the tools to do it myself. I have also cut away part of the centre tunnel.
The gearbox has been bolted to the engine and both are now sitting in the engine bay - 7 hours work!
The next stage is to get some professional advice and double-check what I have done so far. Assuming all's OK then
I can sort out the proper engine and gearbox mounts. At the moment the gearbox is sitting too high so I will need to
modify the chassis slightly.
One thing I am very pleased about, though, is that I should be able to remove the bonnet hump as the engine is far enough back and low enough for it not to be needed .
I spent some time today working out the position and mounting for the steering column. The engine's inlet manifold and oil filter are in the way of the steering drop linkage so I think the best thing to do is to remove both parts and fully install the steering. When this is done I can work out how to deal with the oil filter and inlet manifold. I have spent a little time on Google and this is a common problem (for RHD cars - if the car were left hand drive there would be no problem whatsoever - there is lots of room on the left hand side of the engine).
I need to retain the closed loop injection system because of emissions - the engine comes from a 1999 car so is subject to stricter controls than pre-1995 engines. This means carburettors are probably not an option - fuel injection and a catalytic convertor are the safest way to proceed. Recommended options are to modify the rather large Ford inlet manifold, to use a particular Rover item with an adapter plate or a complete after market replacement, and there is apparently a smaller oil filter available.
I've had lots of other stuff to do for a while so the car has not been touched. Today, though, I finally managed to find some garage time and got the body lifted off the car ready for mounting the engine and gearbox.
I worked on the gearbox mounting today, including the scary bit of cutting the chassis so that the box will fit between the centre rails.
The gearbox mounting is now bolted in place, I have fitted track rod ends for the steering and I've designed the front engine mount and have started fabricating it.
I have also test fitted the mounting plates from the kit I bought to build the side mounts for the engine, as well as working out what chassis modifications are required. They are not going to be particularly difficult to make up and require only a small addition to the chassis .
The front engine mount is now pretty much complete, and ready for professional welding. I cut off and replaced the ends, drilled with a single hole and nuts welded as before. Two bolts aren't necessary and I don't want to weaken the chassis by drilling two holes through it so close together.
The missing cross-section of the chassis has also been replaced. Next week I can actually start on the side mounts - finally! I've measured up some 3mm box section ready for cutting and a couple of bits of plastic tube ready to use as templates .
The side engine mounts are complete and looking pretty good! The engine is perfectly level and I am pleased with the results.
The body has been lowered back onto the chassis and I've used 3mm box section to make two solid uprights that the main cross member for supporting the dash and steering column bolts to. The uprights will also make nice solid door mounts .
The last three months has seen the chassis work completed. The seats and pedals have been positioned, seat mountings sorted and engine mounts completed. A professional welder has visited twice and has welded all but one of the parts that I'd tacked together.
When I took the engine out for the welding I found that the cross-member I made to support the front of the engine is not quite strong enough and the centre section of the 3mm plate has warped under the weight of the engine. That will need strengthening but it's best to have found it now. It's no great problem and easy enough to sort out.
Hopefully this is now the 'home run' for the engine and gearbox fit. I have bought a lightened flywheel and a clutch kit from Tiger Racing. Not cheap, but they promise me I will have no problems fitting it and it'll take away the uncertainty of mixing/matching different parts to make the clutch work properly. If it all works first time I will be very pleased and will see that as value for money.
I finished painting the engine a couple of weeks ago - looking good! But....... last weekend I tried to assemble the engine, clutch and gearbox only to find that the Tiger Racing starter motor won't fit. The type 9 gearbox means that I need a different starter motor to the one originally fitted to the Zetec, and it's on the opposite side to it's original fitment. Part of the upper section of the Zetec sump prevents the fitment of the starter motor.
I've known that I need to replace the sump at some stage but I thought this was due to it's angle now the engine is upright (it was inclined in the Zetec) causing oil pressure problems when cornering. A few people have modified theirs by cutting/welding the lower sump to level it, and cutting part of the upper sump away. I preferred to buy a purpose built sump so a Tiger Racing ERA unit was purchased and part fitted this weekend. The windage plate is in place and I now have more painting to do!
Dino project 2yrs old today! Car was collected 15/9/2012 - will it be on the road by 27/7/2015 ?
10 1/2 months to go... give or take.......
A good effort today! I had a few problems last weekend trying to mate the gearbox back to the engine having fitted the sump, spigot bearing, flywheel and clutch. A couple of four packs of Stella swapped for an old first motion shaft (gearbox input shaft) meant that I could check the clutch plate alignment easily.
No problem - everything was aligned. Using the spare/old shaft to work out the position of the splines, I turned the actual gearbox shaft by a few degrees to match. I lifted the gearbox into place first time. Sorted!
The engine is now back in the chassis - that was a nice easy job. Next - strengthen the front engine mount and get it welded. Then a few cosmetics followed by starting the work to get the engine running!
10 months to go!
The front engine mount is finished (it just needs professional welding). It's now re-enforced with a 3mm sheet that I want to have spot welded to the existing sheet, as well as seam welding around the outside. Underneath I have rivetted on angle sections that will also get welded. They act as vertical ribs that should remove any chance of flexing. Hopefully I won't have any more engine mount problems .
After 23 months (to the day - last Saturday, 18th) the body is back on the chassis, with butyl sealer to keep the water out. The front engine mount has been professionally welded, cold galvanised and painted. The angle sections have been replaced by box section for additional strength so, all being well, no more flexing problems.
The front engine mount has been bolted in for the final time, and the body refitted and bolted down. I've used a good quality butyl sealant strip to keep the water out. Various small parts cleaned up and painted, as has the cabin cross-member .
During the last month I have fitted the seats and fabricated various parts including (finishing) the cover for the gap left where the old starter motor would have been, a replacement for the power steering pulley (as I am not fitting power steering in the Dino but I need a pulley for the serpentine belt run) and a detailed cardboard template for the replacement inlet manifold. More work that it sounds!
Just a brief update. I hadn't photographed the finished power steering pump replacement pulley, so there are a couple of photo's here. Also, the body of the new inlet manifold has been cut from 3mm Aluminium. The template has served me well - the holes in the aluminium line up nicely with the cardboard trumpets and base plate.
Progress has been a little slow due to laziness, cold weather and a few distractions but the inlet manifold is pretty much ready for welding now. It's taken a few weekends and the air idle control valve added some complications but I am hoping that it'll do the job. The valve allows a small amount of air to bypass the throttle when the throttle is closed and controls the engine idle, preventing stalling.
It's been a fun but tricky (for me) bit of fabrication, and I am pleased with the results. I don't think that there is anything wrong that a professional welder can't deal with (there are a few slight misalignments - but we are talking amateur in a garage, first time!). The tabs on the base plate are temporary - once welded from the other side they can be ground away leaving a flat surface for the trumpets to be welded to. I need to work out how to get some bolts mounted but I may wait until it comes back from welding and suss these at that time.
During the last few months the radiator mountings have been fabricated, the previous cut out holes in the boot repaired and the fuel tank, pump and filter fitted. Cupro-Nickel pipes are now in place between the tank and the engine bay. Once the inlet manifold is welded and fitted, the fuel rail can be fitted and I will buy some flexible fuel hose to connect the pipes to the rail. That will be the fuel system complete.
After a long break, the blog continues on page 2.........
(c) Simon Scott 2012-2019